Gainesville: John Force Racing final summary

Castrol Highlight: Ashley Force drove the Castrol A/Fuel dragster to a final round victory over Randy Meyer to win the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at the 37th annual ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. DESPITE FINAL ROUND LOSS,...

Castrol Highlight: Ashley Force drove the Castrol A/Fuel dragster to a final round victory over Randy Meyer to win the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at the 37th annual ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

DESPITE FINAL ROUND LOSS, FORCE JUST TWO ROUNDS BACK IN POINTS

John Force reached the final round of an NHRA national event for the 189th time in his career Sunday, but his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang inexplicably stumbled in the money round, allowing Ron Capps to escape with a victory that boosted him into a 31-point lead in POWERade points.

Force, drag racing's biggest winner, appeared headed to his first win of the new season -- his eighth at Gainesville Raceway -- after driving his Castrol Mustang through the timers in 4.752 seconds in a semifinal victory over teammate Robert Hight.

Not only was that the quickest time of eliminations, it was the second quickest time of the entire event, bettered only by Force, 4.751 second qualifying run which earned him the No. 1 qualifying bonus for the 127th time in his career.

However, in the final, Force's Ford shook the tires as it left the starting line. The 13-time series champion backpedaled (feathered the throttle) in an attempt to overcome a loss of traction, but his car veered toward the centerline where it made impact with one of the boundary cones, resulting in disqualification.

"They didn't go after us," Force said of Capps and crew chief Ed "the Ace" McCulloch. "They just played their game. They went A to B and waited for us to make a mistake -- and we did. It shook at the hit (of the throttle). I pedaled it, but it wasn't going anywhere. Then it ran over the cones. It's just destiny."

While Force continued his strong early season performance, teammate Eric Medlen won his first two racing rounds of the season in the Castrol SYNTEC Ford, reaching the semifinals and moving from 11th to seventh in POWERade points. Hight held onto the No. 3 position in the Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford.

Nevertheless, the most successful of the Castrol drivers was Ashley Force, who won the Top Alcohol Dragster championship in the Castrol dragster owned by Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows. Ms. Force, the No. 3 qualifier, reached the final round for the third consecutive race at Gainesville but earned her first victory at the Florida track.

On Monday, the 23-year-old was to have tested one of the Team Castrol Funny Cars at Gainesville Raceway. She'll remain in the state for one more week, competing this weekend in a Southeast Division points meet at Bradenton Motor Sports Park.

* * * *

TEAM CASTROL Details:

JOHN FORCE, 56, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.751 seconds, 323.62 mph.

Race results: Beat Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham, Robert Hight; lost to Ron Capps.

Notable: Extended to 372 the number of consecutive races for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car and reached the final round for the second consecutive NHRA tour event, for the 11th time at Gainesville and for the 189th time in his career.

Quotable: "It shook at the hit (of the throttle). I pedaled it, but it wasn't going anywhere. Then it ran over the cones. It's just destiny. It was (Capps') day to win but we proved that we still have a fast car that's just going to get better. Good weekend for Team Castrol and Ashley covered us with a win."-- JOHN FORCE.

ERIC MEDLEN, 32, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.809 seconds, 302.31 mph.

Race results: Beat Jeff Arend, Cruz Pedregon; lost to Ron Capps.

Notable: Won his first two rounds of the season and moved from 11th to seventh in POWERade points.

Quotable: "Well, we had a tough weekend. We broke some parts but, in the end, we won a couple rounds and fought our way back into the Top 10 and now we've got something to build on." -- ERIC MEDLEN.

ROBERT HIGHT, 36, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.789 seconds, 319.14 mph.

Race results: Beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Phil Burkart Jr.; lost to John Force

Notable: Strengthened his hold on third place despite losing to teammate John Force by .004 of a second in the semifinals. Quotable: "It's tough to lose in the semis, but I'm leaving with a lot of confidence. Last year at this time, I was still learning a lot about racing, but now I feel ready to go every time I get in the car. We are less than four rounds out of first place so I'm excited about where we are." -- ROBERT HIGHT.

ASHLEY FORCE, 23, Castrol Top Alcohol Dragster

Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 5.315 seconds, 264.55 mph.

Race results: Beat Don Fiorelli, Karen Stalba, John Finke and Randy Meyer.

Notable: First national event victory in 16 months and first ever head-to-head win against Randy Meyer.

Quotable: "I don't know why we're suddenly doing so well. I just think it's the combination of the air and the weather and the car and the team and everything just kind of falling into place this weekend. Hopefully it's not a fluke and we can do it again."-- ASHLEY FORCE.

-johnforceracing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Ashley Force , Phil Burkart , Jeff Arend , Randy Meyer , Robert Hight , Tommy Johnson Jr.